Showing posts from June, 2010

Back to Quincunx

I've just about finished my "Little Game Chef" entry, those who are familiar with my work will be able to pick it instantly. Then it's a break from my own games. Avalon seems to be fairly professional in their dealings with freelancers. I've submitted an outline for my booklet "How to make a GREAT dungeon", and they seem happy enough with it that they're already interested in offering me some more work. But for my own stuff, it's back to my Quincunx graphic novel, the source of inspiration driving the RPG I've been working on for the past few years. I've had the outline of my story for quite some time, there are notes going back to 2006, and a preliminary version dating back to meeting David Mack during his visit to Sydney Supanova in 2002 (Quincunx began as a homage to Kabuki, a story within that world focusing on one of the other operatives...but then I decided to take the story for my own and introduce some of the other elements

Unexploited Resource #3: Coming Soon

I've had a habit recently, a coming up with great idea then releasing it to the world through a contest entry. That's the theory anyway. Sometimes the ideas don't take (I like to think that the ideas are simply too revolutionary, and people aren't ready for them yet)...sometimes I probably just don't explain them well enough. Little Game Chef is on now. ...and so, another of my ideas bordering genius and insanity is coming to fruition. But the judges have asked that we work alone, not posting our ideas on the various forums where the contest was advertised. This post is basically a reminder to myself, a chance to reveal the various ideas and research regarding the tool I'm using in my Little Game Chef entry. Suffice to say, it should link into the contests theme of "comedy" pretty well. Especially in an immersionist way.

How to make a Great Dungeon

I'm about to embark on a new journey in the world of roleplaying...a freelance writing gig. I've been in contact with Avalon Games , with regard to their upcoming series of booklets entitled "How to be a Great..." The aim seems to be the production of a series of booklets focusing on different aspects of the roleplaying hobby...from GMing to Playing, Character Writing, Scenario Creation, etc. It's a nice idea and while I put my hand up for "How to be a Great GM", this booklet was taken. So I've opted for "How to make a Great Dungeon". If this works out, I'll be submitting a few more Great Booklets to them.

Shadow Island

Just finished generating some artwork for a movie pitch... I thought I'd share.

An alternate way to look at skills

Traditionally, a character sheet has a range of skills on it. Each of those skills has a value to indicate how good a character is when undertaking a task with the marked skill. It seems simple enough, but it often leads to complications. Some games (like D&D 3rd Ed and RIFTS) create synergies between skills. If you possess skill "X", you gain a bonus to skill "Y" because there is an overlap in their spheres of use. You often need to cross reference a couple of books to get the full range of synergies and bonuses. Some games (like White Wolf's Storyteller System) use general abilities/skills, then provide specialties, or secondary abilities that fill specific niches that the main skills don't cover. Again, those players with access to a wide range of splat-books have an advantage here...and if the GM says that only stuff in the main book is allowed, you end up with play situations where the GM has to make an ad hoc call, or simply say..."Sorry, y

Little Game Chef

Do I put my hand up for this or not? I've got the time... I've got some ideas... But the killer is the theme..."Comedy". I went right off key when I submitted my last Little Game Chef entry, where the theme was "Immersion". If I take too long thinking about it, the opportunity will pass. So I'll consider my options and decide on whether to enter tomorrow.


Thanks for the comments regarding my last post about Forums. I'd like to think that the responses back up my belief that it's good to have different forums catering to different types of much the same way that we now see a wide variety of games catering to very specific and different play styles. I didn't mention 1km1kt or RPGLaboratory, it wasn't a deliberate omission and I'm interested in some of the stuff happening over there...but like the posts from Forge newbies, a lot of what I see coming from that part of the independent games community seems to be recycled or thinly veiled copies of existing stuff. I haven't mentioned Old-school Renaissance forums (I'm pretty sure there are a few of them around), because that style of play may be valid and may have its fanatics, but it just doesn't interest me as much as pushing in new directions. ...but what about the numerous blogs I mentioned in passing as a final comment. At the time of


Another forum... Well, actually a sub-forum of Story Games. I've been avoiding it for a while, but while The Forge was down and reorganising itself, I started to look for new avenues of game design inspiration. That's a part of the reason why there have been so many posts over the last couple of weeks. I logged onto Praxis a few months ago, just to see if there was anything interesting happening. My first thoughts were that the forum simply seemed to be doubling up on a lot of what Story-Games was already offering, and the areas it didn't explore were stuff already covered by the Forge. But my recent forays into the deeper world of Praxis have revealed something a bit more. A lot of the posters on the Forge are new arrivals to the indie scene. They've often got great ideas, but those ideas are either slight deviations of something I've already seen, or maybe they just don't realise that their idea has been done before. Then you get the new arrivals who don

Middle Age

From Psalm 90... The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Today I turn 35. Biblically, half my life has passed away. I guess it's time to have a mid-life crisis.

Quincunx Otherkind

It's just an idea at this stage...

The Libary of Lost Ideas

I've always got a dozen ideas that I don't know what to do with. Sometimes these get incorporated into new game ideas, sometimes they evolve, sometimes they get forgotten, sometimes I mention one of them on a forum somewhere and the idea strikes someone else as sheer genius (or sheer stupidity). By the time a month has past, half of the ideas might remain in their original format, the other half have evolved distinctly enough to be considered new ideas. These ideas have been filled into dozens of notebooks, hundreds of paper scraps and just as many fragmentary word processor files that have been collected over the years. Occasionally I'll be looking for some vital paperwork (an old bill, a birth certificate, novel notes, etc...) and I'll run across a cluster of pages detailing a game that never got anywhere, or a game world that I thought was amazing at the time. I'll ponder the piece of paper then decide whether to pull this old idea out of the past and incorporat

24 Hour RPG guidelines

I seem to be getting good responses from my post over on the forums abut how to develop a 24 hour RPG. So I'll repost the outline here. Set your 24 hour goal as mid-day to mid-day (you'd probably want a weekend for this). 12pm - 2pm: Get your ideas down on scrap paper. What's your game about? What mechanisms do you need to make sure you game is really about that topic? What is the setting? Is it different from other settings? How? Why are you writing this game? I like to divide my scraps into... "Setting" - pretty self explanatory. It might only take a few lines, it might be a quick page, or it might be developed by the players as they play. Make sure you note this down. "Character Generation" - What stats or traits do you need? Why do you need them? How will the be important to the game? How do you generate them? Do you have pre-made templates or classes? "Session Start" - What starts the game happening? Do you start with a

Vector Theory #27: Further Paths and Webs

A very different way to design a story is to simply think of decision points that might make good threshold markers in the story. As a GM, you might have a specific introduction scene in mind, but you allow the players to follow a variety of paths to get to the next checkpoint. You don't need to know what those potential choices are, you simply know that they will lead to a new decision that will either escalate the story or bring a new element into play. I'm basically calling this method, the "Path of Clouds" or the "Path of Smoke". The nodes are amorphous blobs that become clarified as they are reached through the story. Each choice doesn't specifically lead to a new point; in fact, there are no specific choices. In each case the players could choose to do anything and it won't disrupt the overall plan, it simply leads to a new part of the story. It takes a decent amount of GM skill to play this sort of game, a lot of ad libbing and an aversion to

Vector Theory #26: More Paths and Webs

When looked at through the lens of Vector Theory; the simple, branched and interlinked paths are just some of the possible ways a game scenario can be designed. But in a traditional game design context, these are basically the only acknowledged forms of scenario design. Even in current indie-design groups, it seems that a game is either structured according to one of these methodologies, or it is an amorphous entity that only resolves into some form of structure in retrospect. I'm going to propose a couple of other options. Nothing radical, and once you see them diagrammed out (or explained), you'll probably see that a few of these game structures have already made a presence in games you've experienced. The interlinked path with multiple endings is another fairly common design format. It's actually something that a lot of computer games do now; a few years ago it was considered revolutionary to have multiple endings based on game-play decisions in a computer game.


To quote William S. Burroughs, from the Naked Lunch... "See, you can't rewrite, 'cause to rewrite is to deceive and lie, and you betray your own thoughts. To rethink the flow and the rhythm, the tumbling out of the words, is a betrayal, and it's a sin, Martin, it's a sin. " Like a juggler, I've always got a dozens things up in the air, sometimes rising, sometimes falling...some of my projects require a bit more attention before they start getting dangerous, like chainsaws being juggled...others I can manipulate instinctively, like soft rubber balls. My recent project, FUBAR, is a rubber ball. It seems to be doing pretty well, with over 200 downloads so far (in the 10 days since it's release). I'm getting some generally positive feedback about it, as well as some constructive criticism. It's a project I'm happy with. It combines a couple of ideas that I've had floating around my head for a while into a tight little package. A few m

Go Play: Cockatoo Island

I've decided to run a mini convention. The title isn't fixed, but it will probably be in the vein of the Go Play events around the world, or Camp Nerdly (the way it seems from the posts I've been reading and the videos by Jason Morningstar. I'm intending to run the game event on an island in the middle of Sydney Harbour, on Cockatoo Island. I'm giving myself 12 months to organise things, and I won't be too disappointed if only a dozen people show up. 30 to 50 would be a great turn out, I don't think I could handle much more than that. Let's see how things pan out.

Vector Theory #25: The Path and the Web

Over at The Alexandrian, Jason Alexander is looking at some similar things to Vector Theory . I walked along a similar path for a while. My early game module designs were flowcharts with decision points indicating "combat here [if win, go to A; if lose, go to B]", and similar story elements. It was an interesting way to design a game because I thought I'd be able to come up with an answer to everything, how naive I was... I'm prompted to write this because someone just made an insightful comment. Interesting thought to keep in mind though... some players/player groups don't want a web, they actually want a line. I've played with two groups before who, given choices (more than, say, two) of what type of adventure to pursue, even when it was connected to certain other elements of character or past adventure, etc. would actually feel like they didn't know what to do. Eventually, they would follow a path just to follow it, but hated the idea th

Vector Theory #24 (Addendum)

I noticed that there is a disconnect between the title of my last blog entry, and the subject matter of the blog. The title was written when I started looking through the magic system in Sorcerer, there seemed to be something that didn't quite mesh in the game mechanisms. As I started reading more heavily into the book I realised that each and every design choice in Sorcerer is very specific and very deliberate. Unlike a lot of products on the market, it's a tight game. There aren't superfluous rules or disconnected mechanisms for handling one off situations, everything carefully links into everything else. I had initially thought that it seemed odd to have a game purely about magic users who couldn't use magic, and governed by magical game mechanisms that were crude compared to a lot of products on the market (the spells are as formulaic as "super powers" in most games)...that's where I was wondering if this design decision was deliberate or overlooked

Vector Theory #24: Overlooked or deliberate

I’ve been looking through Ron Edward’s game, Sorcerer, in an attempt to see where it fits into the structure I wrote up for magic systems. Looking over it, it doesn’t fit my notion of a magic system at all, but instead reflects an assortment of static powers. Like the powers wielded by most superheroes, the system is very static. If you want new powers you need to go and bind a new demon possessing those powers. If you bind too many demons, your story gets pulled in too many directions and things threaten to tear apart. It’s an interesting question, as the Sorcerers don’t really have any ability to manipulate the world directly. Instead Sorcerers have abilities to manipulate demons (hopefully), then the demons simply manifest powers in the world. It’s almost like a Catholic praying to a patron saint, they desperately hope the prayer will be heard and answered, because an answered prayer will instantly manifest a change in the world. But that’s all colour text, and from the perspecti

Design Road Map

I'm not sure how well this meshes with Vector Theory... ...a few quick glances indicate some ideas that seem at odds between the two methodologies, but I'll need to look further. Game Design Road Map

Unexploited Resource #2: Tarot Cards

The vagaries of fortune, the hidden paths of fate. Tarot cards are one of those tools that have a history stretching back into the depths of forgotten lore. They have been shunned by the mainstream as a form of "devil magic" or a simple folk-tool for focusing guesswork. In general, they've copped a bad rap. In roleplaying circles there are probably a few reasons for this. One of the biggest being the Judaeo-Christian "moral majority". I've already posted about my upbringing in a Christian household and how a good friend of mine had his roleplaying library burnt because his parents believed that they were the first steps on a path to Satan. ( You can find the post here .) So I might partially be transferring my experiences onto other game designers, but not entirely. I remember designing a few game in the mid to late 1990s, thinking about Tarot Cards and bringing the idea up with friends from a few different circles (old roleplaying buddies from high sch


FUBAR Now in it's competition pre-release version. There should be some updates made to it before the game is due for entry in the Cyberpunk Revival project at the end of the month.

FUBAR (An exercise in Vector Theory Game Design)

My Bunraku Nights project is giving me more loose ends than I can possibly tie up in time for the Cyberpunk Revival Project. So I've just thrown something together some ideas with a distinct Vector Theory perspective in mind. The idea is a story oriented game, based around the mechanisms of Otherkind Dice. Players roll 3 basic dice for any action, allocating them between three factors. Degree of Success - Measures the output of the action and rewards the character by either applying traits to a target, or taking away from the GM's resource pool. Degree of Sacrifice - Measures how much the character loses while trying to accomplish the action. Degree of Fallout - Measures how obvious the character is when performing their action, how much unwanted attention is drawn. Characters get may roll extra dice and discard down to the three they want if they have beneficial traits suitable to the task at hand. If they have negative traits that can be brought to bear on the situatio

Vector Theory #23: A comparison of some magic systems.

I've thought about vector theory in relation to simple skill tests, and methods of story resolution (whether conflict-based or task-based). I've posted on some of these musings as well. At the simplest level, resolving a task either has effects on the character's mechanical ability through the remainder of the story (for the positive or negative), while resolving a conflict tends to twist the story in a new direction. These two aren't mutually exclusive. But, at the moment, I'm thinking about the more obscure systems in a game. The framework that drives a game and makes if different to the others on the market, framework that's often hidden in plain sight. The sanity system described in the last post of the series, gives a good indication of the kind of thing I'm looking at. It's a core element of the game, and its presence drives a certain style of play. It may not allow for the simulation of certain character types, but it evokes a distinct atmospher